Saturday, April 5, 2014

Spending an Evening with Ben

Great day Thursday, driving up to Jackson, Mississippi, to see son Ben, who was in town to do an acting gig for the ABC news show, "What Would You Do?"

I hadn't seen him in seven years – since 2008 when I was in L.A. for Jeopardy and 2007 for the Talk Like a Pirate Day hoopla at friend Talderoy's Ye Olde Tattoo Shop, when I drank a lot of rum and got ye old tattoos on my arm. Tori saw him last summer. For Max is had been even longer than it was for me.

So Tori, Max and I drove up. Jackson is about a two and a half hour drive, a straight shot north from NOLA. It was an easy drive and well worth it. And Linda (our car, pronounce the name with the Latin "leen-dah) was a champ. Got better than 30 miles per gallon, which ain't bad for a car older than both Max and Millie. It's a '92 Tercel, and on the way up it rolled over 100,000 miles.

Ben, dear OLD dad and Max. Don't
you LOVE my shirt? Neither do my kids.
I was dressed specially for the occasion. Tori suggested I wear my dashiki, a shirt I'd bought on the island for a couple of bucks. You have to understand that years ago I started basing my wardrobe choices solely on comfort and shock value. Anything that will startle the children is good enough for my closet. I don't care about fashion. I also brought my maroon polo shirt, what I call my, "don't embarrass the kids" shirt that I wear for parent-teacher conferences, and planned to change into it once the dashiki had had the desired effect. But once Ben finished laughing at me, he was comfortable enough to say I didn't need to change.

I should have worn one of my Hawaiians, I guess.

Ben and Max in Ben's room.
It was great to see Ben, of course, and catch up on his life and steady climb up the entertainment ladder. And Ben was a little shocked when he saw Max – hadn't seen him since Max was about 8. He's grown a bit, to say the least. Max has shown people Ben's picture and they say, "No way that's your brother, he's too hot." (Seriously, they say that.) So we made sure to get a picture of them together.

But one thing we all agreed on, Jackson is a hole. The worst city I think I've ever been in, drab and ugly and falling down at the seams. Definitely the worst state capital I've ever seen. The only part that looked OK was the downtown area, which was heavily torn up by urban renewal construction and you could see it would look kind of nice if/when they finish. But it was all the more telling that, as rundown as the city is, the only place them seem to be putting any effort it the downtown

Driving up we'd passed by or through a series of comically named towns on the edges of swamps and wondered, "Why does anyone live here? What made them decide, 'This is the place?'" Once we saw Mississippi’s capital we decided the residents of those other places had said, "Well, at least it's not Jackson."

It led to one of my best lines in a while. As we passed through one town, Tori read the name and asked, "What's a Tickfaw?" I replied, "Fer suckin' blood!" (It works if you read both lines aloud in a southern accent.)

Saucy ribs mean sticky fingers! Great
food from E&L Barbecue.
But they did have fantastic ribs! Ben had "yelped" (oh these kids today) for a good place to eat and found E&L Barbecue. The woman at his hotel front desk told him it was good, so we headed off and found it. A hole in the wall. There's a security guard at the door and a sign that says "No firearms permitted inside." So that had us on edge. Lots of tables inside but no one sitting at them. It seems to be takeout only, and there was a line, about 18 or 20 ahead of us, and as we moved up more people filling in behind. The air was sharp with the tangy smell of wood smoke and barbecue sauce. We got our order and went back to Ben's hotel to eat.

Wow! It was great. I had the pulled pork sandwich and it was delicious. Then started looking over the plates of the others, all of whom had way more than they could eat. Three ribs later I could hold no more.

Anyway, Ben's doing well, and we hope to see him on TV soon. We'll update on that when the day nears. We drove up, saw Ben for about three hours and had a good visit, then drove home another two and half or so hours. A day well spent.

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